Today is International Women’s Day. I’ve been pondering over a comment I heard Quentin Bryce made, stating her opinion that there should be a minimum quota upheld of females on boards, or in leadership or decision making roles. There’s an interesting paradox at play in our beautiful country.
The Australian Paradox
On the surface, we have some highly successful women in some of the most senior positions in our country. To name a few, our Prime Minister, Governor General, Sydney Lord Mayor, Queensland Premier, and Westpac CEO.
The Global Reality
On a worldwide level, we do most of the work yet earn just 10% of the global income. On a local (and global, I’m sure) level we are paid less in the workforce, still battle the glass ceiling, and struggle with the balance of having it all.
Interestingly, a company I worked with was also concerned with the lack of women in senior level positions. To address this problem, they issued a directive that every shortlist needed to include at least one female. The result being that if the top 3 candidates were all male, one would be bumped off the list for the most qualified female applicant.
A bandaid solution?
I can’t help but wonder if this solution, and Quentin’s suggestion, are bandaids. To me, the better question to ask is WHY there are not more women who are equally as qualified, capable, and experienced as their male counterparts. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the glass ceiling exists, and on a more serious level, so does discrimination. I also think there is a perception that women don’t take their careers as seriously as men, being distracted as we obviously are by marriage and babies. Ironically this perception means that career-minded women often have to work even harder than their male colleagues to disprove this myth.
But I believe we need to look at the root cause of this issue, and address the reasons why, at a senior level, there are often fewer female candidates than males. We could benefit from examining more deeply why there is still such inequality at this level, as well as continue to encourage equality and banish discrimination.
One final thought. When recruiting, I’ve often encountered the (mis)conception that women are too emotional to succeed in high level positions. Unfortunately, some of the women I have worked with in senior roles, seem to go to the extreme to disprove this, often earning a reputation as cold, harsh, and difficult to deal with. This makes me sad. I think that women often have a high degree of emotional intelligence, and can use their natural talents to truly get ahead.
What do you think? Are women given less opportunities to succeed from the early stages in their career?